Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a law last week aimed at producing a “pharmaceutical grade” marijuana program that will serve to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule II substance in the eyes of the state and permit large-scale marijuana growers to begin selling their products in local pharmacies. The only catch is the federal government must first decide to downgrade its Schedule I status of the drug to a Schedule II, allowing marijuana to join the ranks of substances that have an accepted medical purpose in the United States.
Senate Bill 660, the legislation that is now being referred to as Public Act 268 of 2013, allows a distribution process to be established between marijuana growers and licensed pharmacies that would regulate medicinal cannabis in local drugstores, similar to the methods in which prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet are currently managed.
Supporters of the bill, including sponsoring Senator Roger Kahn, say that the new program will give patients the benefit of obtaining a product with consistent potency, free of molds, pesticides and other harmful elements commonly associated with lower-end grow operations.
“This bill will give them a pure and pharmaceutical-grade alternative to homegrown marijuana, so that they’ll have the ability to make a choice, and in making that choice, they will have a product that accurately fits the name medical,” said Kahn.
However, many medical marijuana patients say they have no interest in the bill ever seeing the light of day because it sounds too much like Big Pharma plotting a hostile takeover of the state’s current medical marijuana program. Other opposing forces insist that instead of implementing a new pharmaceutical-grade program, lawmakers should focus their efforts on repairing the plan that has been in place since 2008.
“Why are we spending taxpayer time and resources for an out-of-state corporate constituent who may or may not come to the state,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer. “And we’re not doing squat for anything to help current constituents who cannot access medical marijuana.”
The pending legislation would give patients and caregivers enrolled in the current medical marijuana program the option to continue to possess and grow in accordance with the state law. Those wishing to take advantage of the pharmaceutical-grade weed would be forced to forfeit their current medical marijuana card — yet, patients would be given an opportunity to reapply in the future.
Under the new law, growers, distributors, physicians, and dispensaries would be placed under the regulatory thumb of both the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Board of Pharmacy.